Everyone’s talking about it. It was all over Facebook updates. Of course, I’m talking about Avatar, James Cameron’s first full-length feature film since Titanic – which, no joke, is pretty awesome. It’s taken me a few days to think about what I want to say critically about the film. Here are the basics – it’s Dances with Wolves in space. Not that I expect much from Cameron in terms of dialogue and story…in fact, the story was probably better on the whole than I expected. There are guys searching for something called “unobtainium” which they find on a planet with an indigenous people. Of course, the largest deposit of this mineral is underneath the site where they live. High-tech battles over the resource ensue, issues about biology, the environment, technology and humanity are called into question. The ending is feel good, and leaves itself open for a sequel. Basically everything an action film is supposed to do – this film does it REALLY well.
The film is enjoyable and impressive. Up until now, I’ve sort of taken the whole 3D thing as a gimmick to impress kids and jack up ticket prices. Now I’m thinking it might actually go somewhere. It’s not perfect, and it still gave me a headache afterward, but several scenes were enhanced by the depth perception. I also sort of want to see it again to see if your placement in the theater impacts this (I went with my seven-month pregnant sister, which meant we had to sit on the aisle). The acting was pretty good given the confines of the script, with Giovanni Ribisi turning in what I thought was one of his best performances ever. The second to last new episode of Bones this fall made WAY more sense when I realized that Joel Moore is in the film.
My qualms are minor – but of course I have them, because I can’t just enjoy a feature film for what it is. I think my biggest issue was that I wanted more information. There are scenes that talk about the biology of the planet and what not, but don’t go into depth (I mean, seriously, “unobtainium”? Apparently I'm not the only one that thought this was ridiculous...). Similarly, the technology behind the avatars isn’t quite fleshed out, but couldn’t have been written the way it was even five years ago with the increase in avatar gaming and what not. My sister’s biggest problem was the, “how are they going to write their way out of this?” – but the scene where Grace is presented to Eywa solves the problem (she turned to me at this point in the film and said, “Oh! I know how this ends. We can go home now.”)
Overall, it was a great film experience. I would be shocked if this film doesn’t totally sweep every technical category at the Oscars this year. I feel bad for J.J. Abrams. Star Trek probably won’t win any special effects awards against this film…which is unfortunate, because it really was one of the better films of the year in that respect.